The Polish-American man, Andrew Bienkowski, is the author of the bestselling book, Radical Gratitude. A couple of years ago I was doing laps at a local swimming pool and struck up a conversation with the woman in the next lane. Turns out we had a lot in common and after finding out about Life’s a Mango, she decided to buy three copies for family members and friends. We arranged for me to drop the copies of the book off at her house during the week.
On the afternoon that I dropped off the books, she lent me her copy of Radical Gratitude. Little did she realize what an impact that kind gesture would have on my life! Perhaps we never really do realize the impact random acts of kindness have on others.
Anyway, I was so blown away by the book, Radical Gratitude, that I tried to track down the author, Andrew Bienkowski, on line. The publisher emailed me back almost immediately and said that the only contact address they had was Andrew’s son, Tim. Tim explained that his father did not have a computer but supplied me with Andrew’s postal address.
This was in 2017. Since then Andy and I have been pen pals; writing to each other every few months. He’s the only person I send hand written letters to. As well as his letters, he sends me articles, poems and newspaper clippings. I asked him if he would write the Foreword for the second edition of Life’s a Mango and of course, he said yes. Around May this year, 2018, I received a letter from him. It contained the sad news that he had macular degeneration and the doctors expected him to be blind by this time next year.
Without almost a second thought, I knew I was on my way to the USA. I organized to catch up with a friend in Washington State and then decided I would fly across The States to Bufffalo to visit Andy. Done. 5,4,3,2,1 -Go! I had the ticket in my hot little hands within 48 hours of getting his letter.
Now this is where the story gets interesting! I didn’t actually tell anybody here in Australia that I was going. I mean nobody. I wanted this to be my special secret. I didn’t want or need comments, judgements, criticisms or anything negative clouding my impending trip. Keeping this to myself was a truly wonderful experience. Every time I thought of my holiday to The States, I got a thrill as if a pretty fairy in my heart had waved her magic wand and make my heart flutter with delight.
So the question was when would I tell my nearest and dearest that I was leaving the country and would be away for two weeks during the school holidays? I decided that 48 hours was probably enough time for him to get used to the idea and so I wrote a carefully constructed letter explaining my motivation for going and where I would be staying etc. I worded it well and re-read it several times to make sure it was perfect. I then popped it into his work bag and texted him telling him there was a letter from me in his bag.
So, would I do it again? Would I make an arrangement and keep it a secret? Well, it depends. I wouldn’t recommend this tactic if you’re going to Bali with the girls or you’re off on a cruise with your mates. The motivation has to be fairly pure and ultruistic. Keeping the trip to myself was so mentally freeing and for months I was not plagued by any kind of negative input. You may think it was deceitful but I knew in my heart, without a shadow of a doubt, that I needed to go and meet this man, Andrew Bienkowski. I didn’t require or want somebody else’s permission to do it. A girl has to do what a girl has to do!
Was it worth it? You bet! We connected on such a profound level and felt totally comfortable in each other’s company. It was as if we had known each other for years! He was born in the same year as my father and his wife, Helen, was born in the same year as my mother. The connection I had with these two human beings was incredible. It was special. It was beautiful. It was unique. So, my friends, if you ever get that feeling that you need to connect with another human being and there’s a bit of expense and travel involved, don’t give it a second thought. Just Do It! You’ll be glad you did.
Love, Jen xo